Well let’s start with the good news…we have water!! It didn’t happen until 6pm at night and was a bit of an odyssey, but we now have great water. As usual though, I am jumping to the end, so let me back up a bit. I went to bed around 4:15am, fell asleep pretty quickly, but unfortunately woke up around 9am. My stomach was growling and I had a headache, so I decided to just get up and give my body another day to adjust. Thankfully things are slow at night, so I have the chance to get acclimated slowly and the Account Manager (who came out to visit around 9:15am) said it was OK to catnap when traffic was slow at night. There are very different views on this in the gate guarding community, but the general consensus seems to be if you can wake up quickly and do your job quickly and efficiently, then no harm no foul. Since we are getting zero night traffic at this point, there seems to be little harm, but in anticipation of more night traffic I feel like I should keep trying. Plus I really enjoyed the quiet of last night and am looking forward to having some more time to myself. It’s a nice benefit of the gig, at least at this point. Don’t get me wrong, I love Lee to pieces, but a little alone time once in a while is good for any marriage. I have always been a light sleeper, so I am not worried about sleeping through the alarm, but I am a little worried about being as alert as I should be. On Day 2 I am playing it by ear and seeing how it goes.
The morning started off well. The traffic was still slow (gravel trucks are coming tomorrow and that’s supposed to be a pretty crazy day) and Lee was in a pretty good mood. It was quite a bit hotter though, and because our RV faces right into the morning sun we have been trying to work on a solution. We have both the awning and a sun shade but it’s been so windy we can’t leave it out all day. It’s great when we can use it because it gives us sun and wind protection and a bit of privacy, but when the wind starts moving the awning up and down we have to unzip it and put it away. Lee sat under the front of the camper for a while, which helped, and he can occasionally come inside, but it’s not optimal. The Account Manager originally wanted us on the opposite side and inside the gate. but was overruled by the oil company. The space was on the small side (between our gate and the automatic ranch gate) and I am sure they were concerned we could get clipped by a large truck pulling in and making the left turn to the pad area. I’m actually glad we aren’t between the two gates, but it would be nice to be inside the gate. I still feel very safe though, partially because of the steady stream of trucks going to the other ranch right down the road.
I even got to get out a little (after taking a very fast shower) and visited the feed store in town (disappointing), the local convenient store (super expensive; $6.49 a pound for chicken leg quarters!), and the Walmart in Pearsall (score!). It may have been the smallest Walmart I have ever been in, but they had a really good selection for it’s size. I bought everything on my rather eclectic list (razors, bread, nutty bars, pretzels, enchilada sauce, Hawaiian punch packets, flour, etc) and even found tent stakes (97 cents each) and a hoe (to push the rattlesnakes away!). I am claiming the tent stakes and hoe as business expenses (I will be more than happy to explain to any IRS person the rattlesnake necessity) so only spent about $50 on food. The prices were very good for such a small store and between that and the local HEB we should be able to get what we need between San Antonio Costco runs. Just leaving was a huge advantage over the Christmas Tree job as Lee can handle the volume of trucks himself and theoretically I could have been gone until my “shift” started at 4pm. Since there isn’t much to do in the immediate area I find it unlikely I will go that route very often, but I was extremely happy I had the option.
I made it back to the gate a little past 1pm to find out no one had called or come regarding the water tank. The vendor stated he would be at our rig with a new tank first thing in the morning and we had heard nothing from him. I had just got our account manager on the phone when the company showed up, and thought at first everything was fine, but they soon told me they were only there to fix the lights. I texted the Account Manager at that point and waited to see what would happen. A couple hours later she hadn’t been able to get hold of the vendor either and I really started to get worried. We were out of water at this point, and talking about what we were going to do. So far we like the job, and wanted to stay, but we couldn’t do that with no water. We could move the rig to the yard 18 miles away and fill up and then come back, but that would only be a temporary fix. Finally, I picked up the phone and called my initial contact when we were set up with the company. She was back at the corporate office and got her manager on the phone with the manager of the vendor very quickly. Not only were we getting a new tank, but an employee of the gate guarding company was going to supervise the cleaning of the tank. It would be onsite by 5:30pm.
After that conversation I felt quite a bit better and then something really great happened. One of the gate guards from the ranch down the road stopped by to say hi. What a fantastic thing to do, and since she and her husband have been gate guarding for the last 4 years we spent quite a bit of time asking questions. We showed her our water and tried to get a feel if we were being unreasonable, but she said she had never seen water that looked like that and we were absolutely right to be concerned. Yes, the water isn’t campground quality, but hers had never had chunks floating in it. This led to her sharing many of her experiences over the last few years and giving us some great advice. Early on when she was gate guarding at night, she turned around in her kitchen and an illegal immigrant was sitting on her steps staring at her. She used the panic alarm on her truck to scare the person away, but obviously the experience stayed with her. They invested in a camera system (around $300) and have the motion sensor cameras hooked into a TV. They have used them both gate guarding and camp hosting and really like being able to see outside when they are in the rig. Lee of course loved that idea, and I can definitely see in investing in something similar if we decide this is something we are going to do frequently.
She also hooked us up with a good gate guarding Facebook group and gave me a card with her phone number in case we had any questions. Incredibly nice! The best part of the experience for me (besides meeting a real life gate guard) was talking about being a working RVer. They, like us, have to earn as they go and have found that they really have to look out for themselves. It was interesting, because I don’t think we have done a very good job of doing this up to this point, but after talking it through I now understand why it’s so necessary. In the old corporate world, I had built relationships over several years and had people who watched my back or helped me out when I needed it. In this new world of new jobs and new companies every few months, that simply isn’t going to happen, or at least not as frequently. Relationships take time to build, and it is unreasonable for me to expect that level of relationship when most of the people know they will probably never see us again. People are people, after all, and since we come and go in their lives, when something goes wrong we are the easiest ones to blame and frankly the most expendable. It was a really good conversation and got me thinking about the new paradigm we are living in a way I never had before. It also gave me permission to look out for myself in a work environment, which is something we have been trying to work on anyway.
After she left, we both felt much better and then the water truck came. Actually they bought a whole new trailer with new generator, lights, and tanks. The gate guarding company employee explained how they had power washed the tank numerous times and at first we felt incredibly grateful the problem had been solved. But then the conversation suddenly and unexpectedly “turned”, and we got a lecture on how living in an oil field isn’t the same as living in a campground. We knew this, of course, but he apparently thought we needed reinforcement that “working in the oil fields is rough” and we “needed to understand all of our problems couldn’t be solved.” Since we had what I considered a major issue (now validated as such by an experienced gate guarder) and we had both been unfailingly polite in all of our interactions with the company, I felt this was unfair and sort of wandered off. Lee, to his credit, listened longer and said nothing, but eventually he also had enough and wandered off “to check the power in the rig”. Here’s the thing. It’s OK that they weren’t ready for us, and it’s OK that the first tank wasn’t what it needed to be. What was missing (until I called our recruiter) was someone owning the problem and just getting it fixed. A lecture on top of that was really not OK, but what could we do other than get into a pointless argument? Part of our new assertiveness policy though is to learn how future problems will be dealt with and how the situation was handled, coupled with the lecture at the end pretty much told us everything we needed to know.
Despite all that, we are determined to give this job a fair try. We think we will like it and don’t want to have one problem be the determining factor. But we also know that we have used our “one chip” with the water complaint and from now on we need to make the best of what is handed to us or run the risk of being labeled as troublemakers. Our neighbor gate guard recommended coming into every assignment with full fresh water and propane tanks and she also warned us to frequently top off our own tanks because they had experienced delays in fuel/water deliveries or delays in getting a malfunctioning piece of equipment fixed. The more remote the gate, the longer the delays, so thank heavens we are relatively close to the yard. She also recommended developing a good relationship with the site boss. If the site boss (who works for the oil company, which employs the gate guarding company) likes you, they can help get you what you need. We haven’t met ours yet, but that made perfect sense. It takes time of course to build those relationships, but the oil business is a small community. You can build a reputation as a good gate guard and that makes it easier to find jobs when things are slow or get issues resolved if there is a problem. Conversely, she warned us to never walk away from a job in process. Not only could you get black balled in the industry, but they could actually go after your state license and try to have it revoked. That never occurred to me, but it made sense when she said it, and I found it totally believable.
I’m not trying to be all negative here by the way. We have water, it sounds like the issue we had was an anomaly, and we still think we will like the job. But this job seems to come with the same kind of politics we were trying to get away from. The realization we are both coming to is if you are going to work in this lifestyle, it’s impossible to totally avoid politics. Relationship dynamics exist any time you bring two or more people together, and those dynamics are at the root of almost every political situation. One person doesn’t like another person, one person is territorial about their job, someone is incompetent, someone is an underappreciated overachiever. These scenarios happen all the time and low paying seasonal jobs aren’t exempt. One difference, of course, is we can easily pick up our toys and move to another playground, but then you have to start all over, and that gets tiring in its own way. We still believe though that sooner or later we will find the right combination for us. No job is perfect, but some are better fits than others and we just need to keep trying stuff until we find what works.
Along those lines we also locked in our summer gig and are very excited about it (been a busy couple of days). The job was actually sent to us by a reader, and since it is relatively high paying the spots were pretty competitive. We were very pleased to learn we earned one of the spots and it pays enough that we will only need to work 30 hours a week. That will feel like a vacation! It’s 60 minutes outside of Portland, Oregon (one of my favorite cities) and in a campground /marina owned by the local electric company. The interview for the job was over an hour, and not only do we really like the supervisor, but also feel he picked a job that is very well suited to our personalities. We will be covering 3 day-use parks and the marina, and then covering for the camp hosts’ days off. Lots of variety, lots of customer service activities, and in a totally beautiful place. I’ll share more later as we move farther in the process, but we are super excited that we got our first choice. We also applied online for Amazon for the 2017 season. If all goes well, we will be in Campbellsville, KY with our friends Bill and Kelly, and I am really looking forward to giving that a try. It’s also very nice the year is getting locked in, because playing things by ear adds an additional level of stress for us that at this point which I would rather avoid.
So, tomorrow is a new day, and since the gravel trucks are coming it’s going to be the real start of the work portion of this job, so I’ll let you know how it goes. It’s nice having all this time at night to blog if nothing else. I also worked on our 2017 budget, sent emails to the people we were talking to about summer jobs that we won’t now be taking, and did the dishes…very quietly! I also watched a little TV so I am finding the first part of the evening goes very quickly for me. It started dragging around midnight, but the first few hours are very productive and it’s nice to have quiet time to complete those tasks.
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I was thinking, it would be great if these jobs you are looking at had reviews posted by people who had worked there previously. Like Yelp or Google reviews, it could provide useful info and hopefully help make the employer treat their people better.
There are a couple of places to look but like Yelp are so subjective. I tend to wait until I can talk to a person I have met. You can tell pretty quickly if they are just cranky or the complaint seems legitimate. Blogs are a nice substitute but hardly anyone blogs about this stuff in detail. I am hoping the Facebook group will be a good tool for that as well
I was looking at Google Maps last night, and in your area you’re definitely in the middle of an oil patch. So, you’re coming to Oregon, that’s great. Being only an hour out of Portland, just maybe we can meet up while you are here. Since my wife and I live on the east side of Portland, an hours drive is no big deal. Having been an avid reader for some time, it would surely be a pleasure.
I would love to meet you Ron!! Send me an email when we get there and we will set something up. Anytime in June (depending on our work schedule of course) should work
Tracy, I’m so excited you guys got that position in Portland. I’ve never met you but it sounded like a good fit! Glad it worked out.
We have taken a workamp position in a Carson, WA fish hatchery this summer. Fairly close to Portland. Who knows, maybe we will meet up. Hope your current job goes well.
That sounds great Leslie. Fish hatchery sounds really interesting. Would love to hear about how that goes…maybe we will put it on the list of things to try. Just send me an email sometime in June and we can schedule something. Would really like to meet.